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Metro Vancouver's menu of garbage-burning sites shrinks

Metro Vancouver
Metro Vancouver's existing waste-to-energy facility in south Burnaby.
— image credit: bing.com

A proposed Duke Point site for a future Metro Vancouver garbage incinerator appears dead after Nanaimo city council unanimously rejected the proposal.

Metro has said it won't force through any site that's opposed by the local government and Metro board chair Greg Moore said he sees little point in conducting local consultations in Nanaimo this spring in light of the April 14 vote.

The region is expected to unveil more proposed waste-to-energy plant sites within weeks and proceed to community consultations in each area to weigh local support.

"Nanaimo decided to make a decision prior to that community engagement occurring," Moore said, but added it's too soon to say for certain the Duke Point site is  off the table or that local consultations will be abandoned.

"We have to wait and see what the applicant in this case decides to do."

The Duke Point land is already zoned industrial and owned by Seaspan, a partner in the proposal with firms Wheelabrator Technologies and Urbaser.

Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan threatened legal action if Metro pushes on, adding Nanaimo should not become "the garbage dump for Metro Vancouver."

The $500-million project would generate heat and electricity from up to 370,000 tonnes per year of garbage and halt the trucking of Metro waste to the Cache Creek regional landfill.

There are three other possible sites that were made public last year.

Aquilini Renewable Energy proposed barging waste across Howe Sound to Squamish Nation land at Port Mellon, where an incinerator would be combined with operations to farm pharmaceutical algae and coho salmon in land-based tanks.

But that's also raised concern among Squamish-area residents over cumulative air emissions, not just from garbage incineration but also the proposed Woodfibre LNG plant, considered to have a strong chance of  becoming the first liquefied natural gas plant to open in B.C.

Delta's Lehigh Cement plant has proposed incinerating dried and processed garbage as a fuel, replacing its normal burning of coal and tires.

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said she's heard little local reaction to the proposal.

Although Lehigh is zoned industrial, she said Delta requires specific rezoning and a public hearing if it's chosen.

Still secret but to be revealed soon are more sites that have been proposed either by cities or other landowners. The ones Metro decides to buy or option will also go to public consultations.

Unlike the previous sites that are tied to specific proponents, the additional sites can be matched with any proponent and technology before Metro picks a final project and site by 2016.

The City of Vancouver, which previously ruled itself out as a site for any mass-burn incinerator, has since proposed to host a "non-incineration" waste-to-energy (WTE) and material recovery plant near the Fraser River at the south end of Main Street.

It's the latest municipality in the region to propose hosting a material recovery facility (MRF) that advocates claim can pull many more recyclables from the waste stream, while undermining the potential case for garbage incineration in the region.

Coquitlam wants to host a MRF proposed by Belkorp Environmental, which also runs the Cache Creek landfill.

And the Fraser Valley Regional District's proposed solid waste management plan assumes new MRFs will help it achieve a target recycling rate of 90 per cent in the years ahead, higher than Metro's short- and medium-term targets of 70 and 80 per cent.

But Vancouver says its "zero-waste innovation centre" would also aim to recover green energy from garbage that is "truly unrecyclable" using alternative WTE technologies, such as gasification, that don't involve burning garbage.

Gasification converts garbage to a gas that can be separately burned.

Moore said cities and other site proponents are free to specify their own conditions, as Vancouver has done in ruling out mass-burn incineration.

Two of the companies bidding to build Metro's new plant have proposed gasification as their technology, while seven others would use incineration.

Metro directors last week received a business case for its waste-to-energy project but declined to make the results public.

Moore said the regional district can't disclose the findings because it would compromise negotiations with project proponents.

– with files from Tamara Cunningham

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